The Oilers re-signed Josh Archibald to a 2-year contract extension with an AAV of $1.5 million on Friday.
Archibald is enjoying a career year here in Edmonton. He had 12 goals and 22 points in Arizona last season. This year, he’s already got 12 goals and 20 points in just 58 games. He has shown that he can play up and down the lineup. He’s been a big part of a solid checking/shut down line with Riley Sheahan. HE and Sheahan also start every penalty kill together. They are a big reason why the Oilers’ PK has improved by as much as it has this season.
Archie is quickly becoming a fan favourite, and he deserves every cent of his new contract.
Holland appears to be trying to create some stability in his bottom 6. He’s now re-signed Archibald and Joakim Nygard, and an extension for Sheahan has been rumoured in the same breath as Archibald’s for sometime now. It’s likely going to happen. Jujhar Khaira, Alex Chiasson, and Zack Kassian are all signed through next season as well.
As always, here’s an updated look at next year’s cap situation after the Archibald signing based on numbers provided by CapFriendly:
Neal ($5.75M) McDavid ($12.5M) Kassian ($3.2M)
Nuge ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Yamamoto ($894,166)
Benson ($808,333) 3C Archibald ($1.5M)
Nygard ($875k) 4C Chiasson ($2.15M)
Khaira ($1.2M) 14F
Klefbom ($4,167,000) Larsson ($4,166,666)
Nurse ($5.6M) 2RD
Russell ($4M) Jones ($850k)
Buyouts: Sekera ($2.5M); Pouliot ($1,333,333)
Retained: Lucic ($750k)
Total Cap Hit: $71,244,498
Cap Space ($84M min proposed limit): $12,755,502
Active Roster: 17
Roster Spots to Fill: 6
Avg/Position Remaining: $2,125,917
It appears that Ken Holland will be bringing back a high percentage of the 2019-20 Oilers back for 2020-21.
There is only one more spot that could potentially be filled by a winger, and the Oilers still need to re-sign Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou will undoubtedly be in the Oilers lineup next season, but that will mean that one of the LWs that I listed would come out of the lineup. It could be Nygard moving to the 14F spot. It could be Benson in the press box or back in Bakersfield. It could also mean Neal being scratched. Unless there’s a trade, there will be quality LWs sitting out every night next year.
If there were to be a trade, the most likely one to get moved would be Jujhar Khaira because his contract wouldn’t be a big hinderance to other teams, and his inconsistency has been frustrating. The other option in my eyes would be James Neal. He’s got 19 goals at this point in the season; but he hasn’t been effective at even strength, and he hasn’t had chemistry with McDavid or Nugent-Hopkins. Most of his success has come on the PP, but he is sharing responsibility with Alex Chiasson, who is just fine there.
Neal isn’t a necessity on next year’s Oilers. A trade would be the best-case scenario because it would create some cap space going into free agency, but a buyout is also possible. I’m not an advocate of having dead money on the cap for the next 8 years, but a buyout would save the Oilers money in the here and now.
There are 2 centre spots unaccounted for as of now. One of those spots will likely go to Riley Sheahan, but that would leave one more spot open. I’m not sure if Gaetan Haas has done enough to warrant that spot. I’m positive that there will be an upgrade available in the off-season, and I believe that will be a priority for Holland this summer.
The situation on defence is more interesting. I’ve written about it repeatedly, but there are a lot of scenarios that could unfold on defence.
Obviously, Ethan Bear will be re-signed for that vacant 2RD spot. The top 4 is set, and it will be the same as what we have seen this season. Holland will have a decision to make on what his 3rd pairing will look like.
Matt Benning is an RFA. The team has been better with him in the line-up than when he has been out this season. He is consistently a plus player. He doesn’t have many skills that jump off the page as being elite, but he doesn’t do much wrong anymore. That’s what you want out of a 3rd pairing defender.
However, the kids are coming.
Caleb Jones can play either side, and he is signed to a cheap contract for the next two seasons. He has improved a lot this season, and he looks ready for full time NHL duty on a 3rd pairing.
Evan Bouchard is currently tearing the AHL apart! He’s got 18 points in his last 21 games. Offensive production isn’t everything, but it is certainly getting easy for Bouchard to produce offence down there in Bakersfield. From all that I’ve heard and read, Bouchard has made great strides defensively as well. He should be NHL ready after another summer of hard training.
The problem is that the NHL defence is crowded.
Kris Russell will be entering the final year of his $4 million contract. He does a lot of things well. He’s a warrior. He’s fearless when it comes to blocking shots. He defends fairly well, but he does not move the puck well. Caleb Jones moves the puck well, and he makes less than a quarter of what Russell does.
Moving Russell out and letting Jones play 3LD makes a lot of sense from a development perspective as well as a salary cap perspective. That would leave the 3RD spot open for either Benning or Bouchard. That would also give Holland more cap space to go after a significant upgrade at centre ice.
However, depth at defence is always important. Holland may opt to just leave that situation as it is and allow Bouchard to over-ripen in Bakersfield.
The 2020-21 Oilers roster is definitely taking shape, but there could still be room for some fireworks.
In other news, Klefbom is back tonight! The team did admirably without him, but Klefbom is undoubtedly a massive addition. The team is mostly healthy again, with the exceptions of Joakim Nygard and Mike Green being out for a few more weeks each. Those are depth pieces. The important thing is that the Oilers are healthy in the important positions for the first time in quite a while. They are basically healthy for a crucial stretch run where they will be spending most of their time at Rogers Place!
I’m pumped for the next month of hockey, but I hope it becomes 4 more months of exciting hockey in Edmonton!